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On No Jitter this week, consultant Tim Proctor of Delta Consulting Group has posted the second of a two-part case study with a detailed, step-by-step account of a recent engagement in which a client decided to replace its IP-PBX system with a cloud-based offering that combined Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS). It’s a great read that helped me understand some of the nuances around this decision—one that many enterprises are in the midst of weighing right now, and many more will be confronting over the next 12-24 months. You should definitely read both articles.

The main thing I took away from Tim’s experience was that the risks and rewards that an enterprise is likely to balance in a cloud communications decision are not necessarily what many of us expected when cloud first came on the scene. For starters, there’s the fundamental decision about whether to even go to the cloud in the first place, versus committing to another generation of on-premises systems. We tend to think of the CPE decision as the one where you’re making a big, multi-year bet that you have to get right. But Tim’s experience showed him that the choice of a UCaaS/CCaaS provider is likely to be more of a long-term commitment than you may think at the outset of the process:

“It’s a marriage,” he writes. “In the cloud, once you get married, that’s it (well almost)! You’re with the one you choose, for better or worse. This is a departure from the premises phone system world, where once you purchase and install the equipment, you can choose among support providers, if needed.

“The cloud providers would say that you could just change to a different cloud provider,” he continues. “But there is a ton of work in 1) vendor selection, 2) design, 3) installation, and 4) training. Lots more work! So it’s not quite the same situation.”

This risk is exacerbated by the fact that the industry is in a state of constant turmoil, with acquisitions among providers and a steady stream of new players entering the market. “The consolidation makes it difficult to choose a provider with confidence that you’re building a solid, long-term supplier relationship,” Tim comments.

Of course there’s a corresponding reward when it comes to this last risk factor: The influx of competitors means that you can and should extract pretty favorable pricing and terms from the cloud provider you eventually choose, Tim writes.

However, I’d note that the influx of competitors isn’t just changing the factors around vendor stability and pricing. It’s also changing the nature of the offerings themselves. It’s no longer pure-play UCaaS providers competing against each other for telephony replacement, while pure-play CCaaS providers try to win over the contact center deployments. To compete now, most of the major players have decided they offer both UCaaS and CCaaS, and more, such as video and APIs.

That adds yet another factor to your risk/reward calculation, one I addressed last week: Do you take a single-vendor or best-of-breed approach to cloud communications? That’s a factor that I don’t think many of us expected would emerge, or at least expected to see develop this quickly.

The good news in all of this is that cloud communications services are, by most accounts (including Tim’s) a viable option. So now that you can move, the challenge is to make the right move.

Eric Krapf
GM & Program Co-Chair Enterprise Connect & WorkSpace Connect
Publisher, No Jitter

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